Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Heart the Chicago Marathon...#8 = Great!

Chicago Marathon It's been over two weeks since I ran the Chicago Marathon, and I was hoping to write about it before my first 50k at the North Face Endurance Challenge. Oops! Well, that has come and gone (race report is coming soon), and now I figured I'd better write about it before leaving with Brian and the rest of the CHUGS for Javelina Jundred this weekend! For the marathon, I didn't have a PR expectation as it was going to be more of a training run for the 50k, but gosh darn it, I was going to have fun running it. Also, after the TransRockies Run in August, running Chicago this year was going to be somewhat anticlimactic. In reality, it wasn't at all! This would be my 8th time running Chicago (12th marathon overall), and I still love this race, big crowds and all. 

The day before the marathon I started to get a little nervous. Marathons, even training ones, are a pretty big deal to me. I still wanted to do well and have a good run. Perhaps I was feeling some anxiety left from the horrible experience that was Chicago Heatathon 2007, I'm not sure. Anyway, my night of sleep was fitful because of nerves, so when the alarm went off at 4:45am, I was ready to get up and get going. Unfortunately while I was getting ready I started to have stomach issues and nausea so I took some Pepto hoping it would help settle my stomach. This was definitely not normal for me, but I tried to be laid-back about it and hope for the best.

Brian and I left at around 5:15am to go downtown. Brian needed to be at the 4k mark by 6:30am, so we allowed ourselves plenty of time. We got to our usual parking garage and after some good luck kisses we headed off in different directions -- Brian to his course marshal post (he had to hold a 4k marker for the elites as they ran through) and myself toward the start area. With plenty of time before the start and the fact that was barely 30 degrees, I took cover at a local hotel lobby on the way. There was a large group from France in the lobby, it is neat to see all these runners from all over the world that would take a tour of our great city.

After a while I got antsy so I decided to head over to the start. Luckily my stomach was feeling better but I was still a little worried about how whether I would have to make pit stops during the race. I found the 10:00 pace corral area (was hoping to run somewhere in between 10 and 11 minutes per mile) and got in position around 7:00. My toes were freezing and numb and I was regretting the decision not to wear any "throwaway" pants to cover my freezing legs. Ah well, it didn't matter as we got closer to the start because more and more people started coming in and soon we crowded in enough that I was actually pretty warm for the last minutes before the start. I shed my fleece pullover, listened to the national anthem, and then the race started. Not that we moved or anything. :-)

Start line
I finally crossed the start line about 15 minutes later and sent a text to Brian letting him know so that he could estimate when I would be passing through at different points of the course. We headed up Columbus and you could feel the excitement in the chilly air. My toes were still numb but I knew they would be fine after a mile or two. We ran under Randolph with the usual woo hoo's that make me smile. As we approached the river I actually spotted Ian and yelled hi to him as I was passing. I was glad to see him and was hoping I would see others I knew along the course. It's so crowded and bustling, though, so you don't expect to. A short while later I also saw another CHUG, Greg, who was one of the many course marshal volunteers that Ian recruited.

During the first few miles I just went with the flow of runners. It was pretty crowded and I didn't feel the need to weave through the crowd. Before the 4k mark I texted Brian to ask which side he was on but didn't get a response so I looked on both sides of the street to find him but unfortunately missed him in this spot. Oops! I passed by the 5k mark in 33:54 (10:54mpm pace), an easy pace I was hoping to improve upon further in the race. I headed up north through Lincoln Park, enjoying the crowds and bands along the way. I picked up the pace a little, but it was still comfortable. The sun was out and I was really enjoying the race. After passing the 10k mark, a guy yells out, "only 20 miles to go!" which those around us laughed at, shaking our heads. Gotta love those comments. ;-)

Then we headed through Lakeview, one of my favorite spots in the course with its vibrant and spirited spectators and volunteers . I knew one of my co-workers, Jim, would be at the mile 8 water station, so as I approached, I randomly picked the left side to look for him. Shockingly I spotted him and ran over to grab the cup of water he was offering, and yelled "Hey Jim!" He was stunned I was able to find him, "Kelly, go Kelly!" he yelled and I waved goodbye and ran ahead through the rest of the aid station. Now we were heading downtown again. I hear a fellow runner say "this is one of my favorite parts of the race, look at the view!" and I look ahead and see the high-rise buildings and I agree. I work downtown every day and many times I take for granted how cool looking it really is. :-) 

At about mile 11, I sent Brian a text letting him know I was on my way. It was right around here where two years earlier I started hyperventilating and suffered a mini-breakdown over how the heat was really affecting me. Not this year! I was still feeling good and chugging along just fine. Past mile 12 I saw Brian, he snapped a couple pictures -- always a boost to see someone you love cheering for you along the course. :-) I slowed down a little west of Union Station because the crowds were thick and spilling out into the street. It was a fun section, lots of spectators as we passed the halfway point (2:17:50, 10:31mpm pace). I was pretty happy with that split, and that if things continued to go well, I would finish well under 5 hours. That was what I was hoping for!

The miles continued to fly by, passing by the United Center, then coming back eastward with Sears, er, Willis Tower, in the background. Brian was at mile 16.5 on Halsted, it was great to see him again as I ran by.  

Mile 16.5
I still was feeling good with less than 10 miles to go. I ran through the Little Italy neighborhood and then Pilsen, which was lively with mariachi music blaring and enthusiastic spectators. My splits were pretty even, my legs felt great, and I was really enjoying the day. I could tell some around me were slowing down in this later part of the race.

Now we were approaching another favorite part of the course -- Chinatown. Crowds were in the streets again so my pace slowed a little from crowding, but I was having fun and I didn't mind. Every year I've run Chicago I always get the chills turning right onto Wentworth and under the Chinatown Gate. The excitement is like an electrical charge in the air, such a great feeling! I got a surge of energy and then as the crowds thinned out along the Dan Ryan, I felt more energy. This part of the race is probably the most desolate. It's strange to go from such a high through Chinatown to this. I didn't affect my pace, though. I kept chugging along, passing people regularly as we approached 33rd street and Sox Park.

By now I'm starting to speed up as there are only 3 miles left and I'm feeling great. I think about my upcoming 50k and how I could definitely run longer than 3 miles left based on how I felt that moment. The course brings us through the IIT campus and free beer, which I almost took but decided to pass on as I was on a mission now. :-) My mile splits are closer to 10:00 and I can't believe I'm almost done!

I'm getting really excited as I turn northbound onto Michigan. The final stretch, just 2.5 miles to go now. Even after getting "gator-splashed" by a guy who dropped his half-full cup of Gatorade on the ground in front of me, I still had a smile plastered on my face. (Ok, maybe I did a little eye roll at his lack of awareness of those around him. ;-)) At about mile 24 I saw Tina and Tom from the St. Charles CARA marathon training group that I had run with in the past. It was great to see them! They had both run great races at the Lakefront Marathon so they were out to cheer for the others in the program. I saw the "1 mile to go" sign and felt a rush of excitement. I did the math and knew I wouldn't be able to get under 4:30, but for sure would make it under 4:35. Not too shabby!

I take the right turn onto Roosevelt and the marathon's only "hill" on the course (an overpass above the south shore trains), and then left onto Columbus and the finish line. Instead of sprinting to the finish, I pulled out my phone to take a quick finish line shot and then ran in, taking in the glory of a marathon finish. :-)

Almost finished!
What an awesome, fun race! I crossed the finish line in 4:33:24, which, while not a PR, was definitely one of the most enjoyable marathon experiences I've had. It was my third fastest time -- can't complain about that! Oh, and it was a 2-minute negative split, too. Woo hoo! 

What made it even more special was that Brian was also volunteering at the finish and gave me my finisher's medal and a congratulatory kiss. :-) An excellent way to cap off a great marathon finish, that's for sure!

Finish line
My Marathon Splits (RunningAhead Log)


Anonymous 10/28/2009 3:12 PM  

Great job sweetie. I'm so proud of you. You have really made the jump to where marathons are now "just" training runs :-). A great accomplishment!

Geoffrey 10/29/2009 6:40 AM  

Great job Kelly, I love how much you enjoy yourself out there!

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